American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the WSSF 2016 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.


When To Euthanize

Camille Yu, CA, Facebook
Q Very concerned rat owner here. If a rat is 3.5 years old and has developed a large, walnut-sized tumor, is it worth taking her to surgery? The tumor is sucking up all her nutrients and making her skeletal, but she is still very curious and energetic for her age. I’m just concerned about the risks, considering she is quite elderly.

A At that age with the tumor sucking the life from her, surgery wouldn’t be an option if it was my rat. Rats being prey animals, they can’t show weakness or they will be eaten. As pets, all too often they will look terrible but still seem to act fine so the owner thinks they are OK. The signs to tell when it is time to euthanize them with a tumor that due to age or other factors is inoperable, is when the tumor sucks the life out of the rat like in your case so they are a walking skeleton, or the tumor breaks open. Most rats will try to hang on acting fine when it is our duty as the owner to not let them suffer a long time and die a painful death. Surgery is very hard on the old rats and many times it is not worth what they have to go through just to get another few weeks with them. The smaller a tumor is, the better chance of getting it removed. As soon as the owner finds a lump, they should have their vet take a look at it to see if it can be removed. When it gets to the stage your rat is in, then euthanasia would be the most humane. Karen Robbins

A Karen gave a really good answer. The question of surgery is complicated. If the rat is healthy and the surgeon excellent, the tumor could be removed and give your rat a decent quality of life for her remaining time. However, if she is thin and not able to maintain her weight, it is likely she has other more serious underlying problems than the walnut-size tumor. The most common tumor in rats is the mammary fibroadenoma which grows slowly and can get quite large and do not cause the rat to lose weight. Aged rats often have underlying kidney, heart, lung, or other diseases and surgery would not be considered a humane option. Carmen J. Booth, D.V.M., Ph.D. *

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January 4, 2019